In a radio interview with NPR on Tuesday during a visit to Washington D.C., former British Prime Minister Tony Blair lay the blame for the Labour Party’s ongoing anti-Semitism crisis at the feet of Jeremy Corbyn, the head of the party, and his far-left supporters.
Blair, a staunch ally of Israel and the Jewish people, told journalist Steve Inskeep that he, and other senior figures in the party, have raised the problem of anti-Jewish hate “consistently” over the past three years to no avail.
“What has happened with the British Labour Party is that a strain of the far-left has taken over in circumstances where, when I was leader, these people were very much on the fringes of the Labour Party. Now, the new leadership has really brought them in.”
Blair was elected Labour leader in 1994 and won the party three executive terms in office before resigning in 2007. He then took on the role of envoy of the Middle East Quartet, a position he held until 2015.
Corbyn’s unwillingness to confront anti-Semitism in the party is not to say “that the majority of the Labour Party is anti-Semitic,” Blair explained. In fact, he clarified, many lawmakers who were first elected during his premiership “are horrified by this.”
The MPs who broke with the party last week, some of whom were members for over 40 years, clearly felt “enough is enough, and had to go,” according to Blair. He said, however, he also sympathizes with those who so far have not resigned and refuse to be chased out of their political home by anti-Semites.
Blair concluded that anti-Semitism in the Labour Party “has not been gripped and dealt with and it needs to be gripped and dealt with.”
He previously blasted the party’s leadership for saying that it was impossible to fully “eradicate” anti-Semitism from the organization.
“How can we say it’s tolerable to have a certain level of anti-Semitism?” Blair asked. “Can you imagine when I was leader of the Labour Party, having a conversation with me about whether anti-Semitism is in the Labour Party or not? We wouldn’t even have that conversation.”
Blair continued: “We’re supposed to be a progressive political party,” he noted. “Yes, there are parts of the left, not the whole of the left, that have a problem with anti-Semitism, and you see this in their attitudes to the State of Israel.”
[Photo: Chatham House / Flickr ]